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Credit Suisse reveals over $900 million exposure to Russia

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Switzerland's second largest bank also said credit risk exposure to Ukraine and Belarus 'were not material'./AF
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Mar 11, 2022 - 01:35 AM

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND — Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse said Thursday that its exposure to Russia totalled over $900 million at the end of last year, with “minimal” links to individuals sanctioned over the Ukraine war.

Russia has been hit with crippling sanctions and traditionally neutral Switzerland last week aligned itself with EU penalities over the February 24 invasion of Ukraine and ordered the freezing of Russian assets.

Switzerland’s second largest bank said its exposure to Russia stood at 848 million Swiss francs ($914 million, 828 million euros) at the end of 2021.

But as of March 7 it had “minimal total credit exposure towards specifically sanctioned individuals managed by our wealth management division,” a statement said.

Credit Suisse’s top domestic rival UBS announced earlier this week that its exposure to Russia totalled $200 million, with under $10 million of loans outstanding to sanctioned clients.

Credit Suisse said it had registered derivatives and financing exposures in its investment bank, trade finance exposures in its Swiss Universal Bank and Lombard, as well as loans issued by its international wealth management division.

In addition, its Russia affiliates totalled 195 million Swiss francs as of December 31, 2021.

Credit risk exposure to war-ravaged Ukraine and to Belarus, which is also facing sanctions for assisting Russia in the invasion, “were not material”, it added.

‘Well-managed’ exposure 

“In purely financial terms, we have reviewed our positions and believe that the bank’s exposure in relation to Russia is well-managed, with appropriate systems in place to address associated risks,” the bank’s chief executive Thomas Gottstein said in the statement.

He acknowledged that “the current environment means making difficult decisions and managing through challenging situations,” but stressed that Credit Suisse was doing so “with a clear sense of perspective and the desire to do the right thing.”

“As a matter of principle and policy, Credit Suisse applies all sanctions, in particular those issued by the EU, the United States and by Switzerland.”

In terms of physical presence in Russia, Credit Suisse has an office in Moscow with around 125 staff.

“Their ongoing safety and security is a top priority; we monitor the situation daily and have planned for a number of potential scenarios,” the bank said.

Executive bonuses slashed 

Credit Suisse also announced it would slash executive bonuses following a tumultuous 2021, coloured by major losses after the meltdowns at British financial firm Greensill and US fund Archegos.

Gottstein saw his overall package cut by 43 percent to 3.9 million Swiss francs, including his 2.7-million base salary.

The chief executive’s variable bonus was slashed to 800,000 francs from the 3.6 million he received for the 10 months he served in 2020 after taking the reins in February that year.

The executive board as a whole meanwhile saw their bonuses plunge 64 percent compared to 2020, to 8.6 million.

Antonio Horta-Osorio, who was appointed Credit Suisse chairman amid the turmoil last April only to be forced to resign 10 months later following revelations he violated Swiss Covid-19 restrictions, received 3.5 million francs in total compensation.

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